We begin this episode with a land acknowledgement.
In this episode of the Mapping the Doctrine of Discovery podcast, hosts Phil Arnold and Sandy Bigtree interview Robert P. Jones, the President and Founder of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Jones discusses his background as a scholar and writer, and how he has evolved to incorporate personal narratives into his work. He also talks about his new book, “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path Toward a Shared American Future,” which explores the history of white supremacy in American Christianity. Jones emphasizes the importance of truth-telling and cross-cultural conversations in addressing the legacy of white supremacy and working towards a more equitable future. The hosts also discuss the significance of shifting from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day and the need for a broader understanding of American history that includes the contributions and perspectives of Indigenous and African-American peoples.
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Unraveling the layers of American history involves peering into its complex tapestry of influences, perspectives, and narratives. As we delve into this journey with Robert P. Jones, the founder and president of the Public Religion Research Institute, challenges familiar narratives and brings to light a history often untold. Jones’ scholarly work, rooted in honesty about his family’s connection to the settler colonialism project, informs his research and makes it more relatable and engaging to a wider audience.
Our discussion focuses on the interconnected histories of the Indian and the Negro problem, the doctrine of discovery, and the 1619 project. These topics illuminate the complex relationships between colonists and Indigenous people, highlighting narratives often omitted in mainstream American history. It’s a fresh perspective that includes the teachings of Native Americans to the founding fathers and Europeans about equity, fraternity, and liberty.
Shifting narratives play a significant role in how we perceive our history. A noteworthy shift is the transition from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, a change representing a broader movement towards acknowledging the indigenous roots of American history. Exploring the history of Christopher Columbus and his legacy provides insights into the doctrine of discovery, the nation’s need to appear older, and the implications of celebrating Columbus Day in our modern society.
Understanding history isn’t just about rewriting it; it’s about the power of truth-telling from various perspectives. We highlight communities in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Minnesota that are using storytelling to bring their local histories alive. We also spotlight Jerome Little, the first African-American elected county commissioner in Tallahatchie County. The influence of writers like James Baldwin and Vine Deloria Jr. in shaping these narratives is also recognized.
Finally, we delve into Robert P Jones’ New York Times bestselling book, The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy: And the Path to a Shared American Future. The book embodies this ethos of understanding and rewriting history through personal narratives. It demonstrates the power of truth-telling and the importance of engaging in cross-cultural conversations.
To move forward, we must acknowledge our past, however uncomfortable or challenging it may be. Unearthing untold stories, recognizing the influences of marginalized groups, and shifting our narratives are all part of a broader effort to create a shared American future. The process of uncovering these narratives is just beginning, and it is through this exploration that we can start to truly understand the complex tapestry of American history.
Philip P. Arnold and Sandra Bigtree, “S03E01: The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery an interview with Robert P. Jones,” Mapping the Doctrine of Discovery (Podcast), October 25, 2023. https://podcast.doctrineofdiscovery.org/season3/episode-01/.